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The Key to Making Tough Decisions

by Matt Walton, ‘22, Career Ambassador Jun 14, 2021

In one’s professional and personal life, there are often many opportunities offered to us, and we will find ourselves facing difficult decisions. We may have to choose if we want to accept or decline a potential job, promotion, or attend graduate school, or change our major/degree track.

Fr. Mike Schmitz, a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Duluth, provides four questions that we can ask when considering an opportunity using the analogy of a door that we have to choose whether or not to walk through in this video. I challenge you to apply this analogy to any opportunity, whether it be a job, internship, graduate school or more!

The first question: is this a good door? A proper decision making process should include consideration between competing “goods.” If one opportunity is outright bad, it should not even be considered. You cannot properly make a decision until you have removed all of the negative opportunities from consideration. Oftentimes, you will have to choose one opportunity and this means foregoing some others. Some aspects to consider are salary, location, hours, benefits, and office culture. However, it is important to be realistic. Keep in mind that you may not be offered your ideal, six-figure job right out of college. You want to have high standards for what you are considering, but you also want to be realistic about what someone with your degree, experience and qualifications should be looking for.

Second, is this an open door? If there is an opportunity that is not even open to you for one reason or another, then it is best to not consider it in your decision making process. For example, this question is especially important when considering opportunities that may require you to relocate. If it is not possible to relocate at a given time, then it is possible that this door is not open to you at that given time. Furthermore, if a given position requires a Master’s degree and you do not have one, this may be a sign that this door is not open for you, despite it being a “good door.”

Third, is this a wise door? An opportunity may be a good opportunity overall and may be open to you at a given time, but you must ask: is it good for you at this very moment? This third question really requires you to self-examine where you are at the time when this opportunity is offered to you. For example, there may be a very good opportunity that you have been offered, making this a good and open door. But, if the opportunity requires you to travel internationally and you are unable to do so because you have young children at home, this door may not be wise for you to go through at that time.

And last but not least, is this a door you want to go through? Sometimes we become so hyper-focused that we forget to ask this simple, yet very important question. This question has been saved for last because it is the most important. Taking a job that you will not enjoy will result in extreme dissatisfaction, even if it is a good, available and wise door for you to go through. Find what makes your heart fill everyday with joy and settle for nothing less. As stated before, all opportunities have their difficulties and will present occasional challenges, but if you are dreading going to work each day before even starting a potential job or counting the days until graduation before you even start graduate school, this is not the opportunity for you.

As author G.K. Chesterton put it, “Happiness is a state of the soul; a state in which our natures are full of the wine of an ancient youth, in which banquets last forever, and roads lead everywhere...” Allow yourself to find happiness in your career journey by following these four steps to find the state where our natures are “full of the wine of an ancient youth.” Find a good, open, wise and joy-giving opportunity that allows you to possess the excitability of a child, and I promise you that you will be successful in all that you do.

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